Ethics, the Heart of Leadership

By Joanna B. Ciulla | Go to book overview

9
Ethics, Character,
and Authentic
Transformational
Leadership Behavior

Bernard M. Bass and Paul Steidlmeier

Are Bill Gates and Lou Gerstner transformational leaders? What about [Chainsaw Al] Dunlap? For many moral analysts, leadership is a manyheaded hydra that alternately shows the faces of Saddam Hussein and Pol Pot as well as those of Nelson Mandela and Mother Teresa. The stories that recount the accomplishments of such leaders raise moral questions concerning both the character of the leaders and the legitimacy of their programs. In this chapter, we attempt to differentiate such leaders (as Pol Pot and Saddam Hussein) from authentic charismatic and transformational leaders in terms of ethical discussions of character and authenticity, as well as the major themes of the modern Western ethical agenda: liberty, utility, and (distributive) justice.

The ethics of leadership rests upon three pillars: (a) the moral character of the leader; (b) the ethical legitimacy of the values embedded in the leader's vision, articulation, and program which followers either embrace or reject; and (c) the morality of the processes of social ethical choice and action that leaders and followers engage in and collectively pursue. Such ethical characteristics of leadership have been widely acknowledged (Wren, 1998; Kouzes & Posner, 1993; Greenleaf, 1977; Conger & Kanungo, 1998). Transformational leaders set examples to be emulated by their followers. And as suggested by Burns (1978) and demonstrated by Dukerich, Nichols, and associates (1990), when leaders are morally ma-

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